When I first went to Amsterdam a few years back, I did not know about the [then] Queen’s day festival and parade that went along with it. So this year I decided to book my holidays so that I would be around for the Koningsdag celebrations. And with this particular trip abroad, I would do something that I had never done before, travel without using an aeroplane.
I figured that it was high time that I tried different modes of transportation to get me to one of my favourite cities. So I used the rail and sail with StenaLine, and decided to spruce it up a little bit by adding some dinner and breakfast to the booking as I wanted to just head straight over to my friends place as soon as I’d arrived. Leaving straight from work, I was stuck in terrible traffic in Covent Garden as there was an event going on at the Royal Opera House which infuriated me to no end as the meter on the cab was still running away, while I had barely moved 5 feet forward.
As we inched ever closer towards salvation, who do I see getting out of an Audi? Colin freakin’ Firth! That’s right, Mr Darcy! It took everything I had not to just leap out of the taxi and live out my Pride and Prejudice fantasy right then and there, but there were two things stopping me. The lack of a lake anywhere nearby, and the fact that I know that I would not fare well in prison. He moved inside quickly where he walked by some others that were just as starstruck as I was momentarily. The traffic didn’t seem so bad after that. I was one step closer to Colin Firth.
After we had managed to get away from the Covent Garden area, the traffic disappeared and we were able to make it down to Liverpool Street quite quickly, while I was telling my taxi driver about how he should value this moment with me in the back of his taxi as I was going to have my name in lights soon enough. He, of course, chuckled at this.
Checking my phone just before we got to the station, I noticed that there was going to be a train leaving for Harwich within the next 8 minutes, so it was a mad dash [still at 1 mph, mind you] to get to platform 14 and make it onto the earlier train, or have to wait another half hour. Thankfully, I made it.
Once we had arrived at Harwich, the port was very close by and it was just an escalator up to get onto the StenaLine queue and head towards the boat. My suitcase was given the once over, and a nice lady helped me lower it down from the conveyor belt. A quick show of my passport and and confirmation printout and we were lead down what was essentially a large ramp, which made my life much easier with a case in tow. There was an issue with the footpath, so we were taken on a small coach inside the ship.
Once inside and finding the floor that my cabin was on, I used my card to open the door and because I had requested a disabled cabin the door opened automatically without needing to be pushed. Which is great for wheelchair users as you won’t need to fiddle around for ages before getting into your room. You can find a video of me checking out my room on my Facebook page here.
After setting my things down, I went downstairs to the 9th floor and went in search of the Metropolitan restaurant, where I had booked dinner. The food was great, and I was just glad that they were serving dinner until late, as my big fear was missing my food! While there were other things on the menu that looked really good, I think I made very good choices!
After dinner, I walked around the 9th floor, which is the public access area and my gosh did it have EVERYTHING. Cinema, reading room, bureau exchange, teen town, everything. Even a restaurant specifically for truck drivers! You could easily live on a boat, unless you get sea sickness of course. What’s even better is that they had wheelchairs available for those that might have needed it, which I thought was really great as you never know if/when you may need it. So it was good to have the option there.
Following my little nosey around the ship, I went back to my room and took the hottest shower in history, it was so great! Which was also helped by the seat attached to the wall, so I didn’t have to focus on not falling down in the shower. And they also had a movable shower head! The shower completely knocked me out and put me to sleep, but that wasn’t before I watched a few scenes of Heat [Robert De Niro + Al Pacino] on the TV in the cabin.
I had set the alarm on my phone for 7am, but thankfully there was a wakeup call done at 6.30am as this meant that I could actually eat my breakfast and enjoy it! After this, we were able to see through the windows on deck out to sea and Hoek van Holland. We were nearly there! I wanted to look my best for my return to the city, so I drew upon my inner Snoop Dogg. LBC for life!
Rushing back to my room and packing up the rest of my things, I went down to the 7th floor and waited for one of the staff members to come over with ‘Tweety’ that would take me across the foot bridge. It was the greatest thing ever! It looked like a forklift and had space for one person to sit on it and went through the bridge quite quickly. Which was great stuff as I was ready to get exploring! I had a great time on the ship, and was helped by so many of the lovely people that worked there. Will definitely be back on a StenaLine ship soon. Where? I have no idea!
Going through passport control, there was a short walk to the train platform that would get me closer to Amsterdam. I made sure to take a cheeky little selfie with the Hoek van Holland sign before having to move on. The train that came along had two steps to get onto it, but there was a lovely Filipino man that assisted me getting my suitcase on and off the train once we’d reached Schiedam Centraal where we needed to change for Amsterdam.
Unfortunately, as sod’s law would have it, the platform that I needed to change over to was the only one that had a busted lift. But thankfully, a nice Dutchman helped me get my bag up the stairs and said the following sentence that I have known to be true for a long time now: ‘There is always someone happy to help.” The Dutch have got to be some of the nicest people that I have met and lived with, apart from a terrible group that I lived with in Nottingham. But we shan’t let a few bad apples ruin the bunch.
After lots of train changes, I had finally arrived in Amsterdam and headed straight for the bus to my friend’s place, after nearly getting mowed down by one of the many trams. It should be noted that the friend that I would be staying with was a lovely woman that I had met at a NY Couchsurfing meet up in 2010, and she’s also mentioned in my New York post. As with most CS meetups, you meet a lot of cool people that you wish lived closer to you so you could hang out more, but that is never the case. I had resigned myself to never seeing her again, but thank goodness she came over to London to study and our friendship continued all the way to her new life in Amsterdam! So it just goes to show that you may see your crazy, cool CS friends again somewhere closer than you think.
Making it to her place alive, I headed to the Rijksmuseum and pretty much spent most of my day in there and shot this video. The last time I was in Amsterdam, I was unable to get inside as it was going through major renovations, so it would not have been worth it to go in and not get to appreciate all the pieces.
Even though the weather was gorgeous on the Friday, the museum was packed with people looking to enjoy the art. So many magnificent pieces, including the Night’s Watch by Rembrandt. Which in my opinion is MUCH better than the Mona Lisa that is way to small for the amount of people that gather around to get a lucky peek of an elbow or something. Unless of course you’re Bey and Jay and you get the whole Louvre to yourself…
All the floors were accessible and you could loan a wheelchair from the museum, which I thought was fantastic. As I am sure one of these days I am just going to tire myself out by wondering around. The staff were very helpful when I simply couldn’t locate the Yves Saint Laurent dress on the 3rd floor and pointed me in the right direction.
What’s even better about the museum is that it is where the famous IAmsterdam sign is located, so you get to hit up two sights at once. It is located on Museumplein where the Van Gogh museum is also based, but I had already been there on my last trip.
While I was waiting for my friend, I sat down in the sun and just took in the street performers and tourists. Little did I know that I had sat in bird poop while waiting for her. So it looked like I had a little green accident and I had to go back inside to the ladies’ and sort myself out. Unfortunately, due to the location of the ‘incident’, my friend had to help me wipe some of it off.
I was a friend in need and she helped me out by wiping my butt/thigh area, so she is definitely a friend in deed! As I had to use water to get the stain out, it ended up looking like I had peed myself, but the glorious weather dried me out in no time. Even though I was still very aware that the remnants would remain on my trousers. And my soul
We had taken our obligatory IAmsterdam photo and were walking towards an Indonesian restaurant she had suggested, but not before we saw a game of chess being played with giant pieces. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area.
Due to the fact that there is very little space in Amsterdam, a lot of the buildings have high and narrow staircases that are not a gal’s best friend when you’re travelling while crip, but I was able to get myself up to the restaurant. The place she had suggested was Puri Mas, and bless her for doing so, because I cannot rate the staff and the food highly enough. We had gone for one of the ‘rijstaffel’ menus and it was just simply divine.
So many delicious courses all brought out together and placed on a T-shaped table that would keep the food warm while you went through the different courses. It was so delicious and paired nicely with my peppermint tea. And the staff were so friendly and accommodating, including taking a picture of my friend and I with our massive meal. I cannot recommend this place enough, you simply have to go there and just eat all the food. You will not regret it.
After rolling ourselves back down the stairs, we made a short trip over to De Ebeling Cafe and enjoyed each other’s company over some drinks and took in all the great lights in the cafe that were lowered to set the mood. The mood for what? I don’t know. But I do know that they have free wifi, which is always a plus! Going back to her place, she stopped over at the famous Albert Heijn and picked up some groceries before we went to bed at a respectable 11pm. Because partying on a Friday night is for suckers.